A submersible went missing in the area of the Titanic wreck in the North Atlantic on Monday, setting off a search-and-rescue operation by the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the agency and the tourism company operating the craft.
Petty Officer Lourdes Putnam confirmed that Coast Guard officials were searching for the submersible, which is operated by OceanGate Expeditions. It was not clear how many people were on board the vessel, and Officer Putnam offered no further details. The company’s website said its submersibles carry five people.
OceanGate, a company that takes paying tourists in submersibles to shipwrecks and underwater canyons, said on its website on Monday that an expedition was “currently underway.”
In a statement after the submersible went missing, the company said that it was exploring all options to bring the crew back safely.
“Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families,” a statement said. “We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible.”
The Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, on its maiden voyage from England to New York after hitting an iceberg, killing more than 1,500 people. The wreckage was found in 1985, broken into two main sections, about 400 miles off Newfoundland, in eastern Canada, and has since attracted the attention of experts and amateurs alike.
OceanGate has offered tours of the Titanic in which guests paid $250,000 to travel to the wreckage on the seabed, more than two miles below the ocean’s surface.
The company’s website outlines an eight-day itinerary for the trip, setting out from the city of St. John’s in Canada to the site of the Titanic wreck. The site also outlines a degree of training for the company’s customers, saying they receive “a vessel orientation and safety briefing” and are familiarized with “the vessel’s safety procedures.”
The company said that customers do not require any previous diving experience, but that there are “a few physical requirements like being able to board small boats in active seas.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.